Ex-Lobbyist, Va. Governor's Brother-in-Law Among 4 Recommended for U.S. Attorney

By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 2, 2009

A former corporate lobbyist and the brother-in-law of Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine are among four candidates recommended by Virginia's U.S. senators for U.S. attorney in Alexandria, one of the nation's most prominent law-enforcement posts, officials said yesterday.

Neil MacBride, a former prosecutor and chief counsel to Vice President Biden who lobbied federal officials as recently as mid-2007, and Dwight C. Holton, a federal prosecutor in Oregon and the brother of Kaine's wife, are on the list of names sent to the White House by Sens. James Webb (D) and Mark Warner (D). The list also includes Erik R. Barnett, a federal prosecutor in Alexandria who heads the narcotics unit, and Robert P. Crouch Jr., a former U.S. attorney in Roanoke.

The Alexandria job has grown increasingly visible in recent years as the U.S. attorney has handled high-profile terrorism and national security cases. Recommendations from home-state senators are traditionally key to the appointment.

In a letter to President Obama dated Tuesday and released yesterday, Webb and Warner called the candidates "outstanding Virginians" and highly qualified. A White House spokesman declined to comment.

MacBride was a registered lobbyist in 2007 for the Business Software Alliance, which represents Microsoft and other leading computer companies. A former assistant U.S. attorney in the District, he was appointed in January as an associate deputy attorney general. Some prosecutors and governmental watchdogs have questioned whether appointing a recent corporate lobbyist as U.S. attorney would run counter to the spirit of Obama's historically strict limits on lobbyists.

But officials said MacBride was hired within those rules, and former colleagues describe him as highly ethical and say the lobbying was a small part of his career. MacBride declined to comment.

Some prosecutors and legal ethicists have raised concerns about Holton's relationship with Kaine (D) because the U.S. attorney, who also oversees offices in Richmond, Norfolk and Newport News, would lead any criminal probes of state officials. Former colleagues said Holton is scrupulous about ethics and could recuse himself from politically sensitive matters. Holton, a federal prosecutor since 1997, did not respond to a request for comment, and Kaine declined to comment. Officials have said Kaine did not lobby for Holton.

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